As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, those with dementia may be having a particularly hard time coping with the many changes to daily life. If your loved one is among the 1.4 million Americans who have received a Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis, you may have noticed a worsening of symptoms. Here, we share more about how the pandemic is affecting those with dementia and offer tips to help you and your loved one adapt:
Why the Pandemic Can Worsen Dementia Symptoms
Individuals with progressive dementia often thrive with a routine. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted routines for most people, from those living at home to patients in long-term care facilities. Familiar care partners may no longer be able to adhere to a familiar schedule, and most day programs have shuttered their doors or gone virtual. The continued social isolation brought on by lockdowns and physical distancing are challenging to humans in general, but especially so for those with LBD and other types of dementia.
Although these changes have persisted for months, many people with progressive dementia are under increased stress that often manifests as a worsening of symptoms. Those with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) have experienced diminished quality of sleep, disruptions to thinking and memory, and increased mood problems. For some, the immune system is even negatively impacted by the stress from COVID-19 related disruptions.
Adaptations to Consider
Since nursing home residents and employees account for approximately 39% of all COVID deaths in the United States, it’s especially important to keep adhering to social distancing requirements. Even if your loved one is still living at home, older individuals are at higher risk for hospitalization and COVID-related deaths than the younger population. Individuals with dementia may have a harder time remembering to wash their hands frequently and keep physical distance, so gentle reminders may be necessary.
If you’re looking for ways to help make life feel more “normal” for your loved one, seek to make outdoor or virtual activities part of the daily or weekly routine. The risk of transmission outdoors is lower, and it should be possible to keep plenty of space between yourself and others when outside. Your local library may offer virtual classes that could become an activity to look forward to each week. Regardless of the activities you choose for your loved one, strive to create a predictable schedule with as much structure as possible. If symptoms continue to worsen, changes in medication may be necessary. Since telemedicine appointments are widely available now, meeting virtually with a doctor may be a good alternative to attending in person.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a significant challenge to those with dementia and their care partners. If your loved one has received a Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis, you may be struggling with complicated feelings during this trying time. If you have any questions or simply need a listening ear, we’re here to help. Our team is available to chat seven days a week via our helpline, so please give us a call at 833-LBDLINE or send us an email at any time.